V. I.   Lenin

The Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

April 10 (23)-April 25 (May 8), 1906



Speech on the Question of Armed Uprising

A comrade stated recently that we were collecting material for agitation against the decisions of the Congress. I at once answered that this was a very strange thing to say about voting by roll-call. Anyone who is dissatisfied with the Congress decisions will always agitate against them.[1] Comrade Vorobyov[2] said that the “Mensheviks” could not work in one party with us “Bolsheviks”. I am glad that Comrade Vorobyov was the first to raise this subject. I have not the slightest doubt that his statement will serve as “material for agitation”. But material for agitation on questions of principle is more important, of course. And better material for agitation against the present Congress than your resolution against armed uprising could not be imagined.[3]

Plekhanov said that this important question ought to be discussed calmly. He is a thousand times right. Calm discussion, however, is indicated, not by the absence of debate before and at the Congress, but by the really calm and practical content of the resolutions to be discussed. And precisely from this standpoint, a comparison of the two resolutions is particularly edifying. It is not the .polemics in the “Menshevik” resolution that we object to—Plekhanov entirely misunderstood what Comrade Winter[4] said on that score—it is not the polemics we object to, but the petty, paltry polemics running through the “Menshevik” resolution. Take the question of appraising the experience of the past, the question of the criticism of the proletarian movement by the conscious exponent of that movement, the Social-Democratic Party. Here criticism and “polemics” are absolutely essential; but it must be open, straightforward, obvious and clear criticism   and not petty attacks, pinpricks or intellectual insinuations. And so our resolution, scientifically summing up the experience of the past year, straightforwardly criticises and says: the peaceful strike has’ proved to be “dissipation of forces”, it is becoming obsolete. Insurrection is becoming the main form of struggle, and strikes the auxiliary form. Take the “Menshevik” resolution. Instead of calm discussion, instead of a consideration of experience, instead of a study of the relationship between strikes and insurrection, we get a covert, sneakingly covert renunciation of the December uprising. Your resolution is thoroughly saturated with Plekhanov’s view: “It was wrong to take up arms” (although the majority of the “Mensheviks” in Russia have declared that they do not agree with Plekhanov). Comrade Cherevanin completely gave himself away in his speech when, in order to defend the “Menshevik"resolution, he had to depict the December uprising as a hopeless manifestation of “despair”, as an insurrection which did not prove in the least that armed struggle is possible.

Kautsky, as you know, has expressed a different opinion. He has admitted that the December uprising in Russia makes it necessary to “reconsider” Engels’s view that barricade fighting was no longer possible, and that the December uprising marks the beginning of new tactics. K. Kautsky’s view may be wrong, of course, and the “Mensheviks” may be nearer to the truth. If you attach any value to “calm” and serious discussion, and not to petty criticism, you should openly and straightforwardly express your opinion in your resolution and say: “It was wrong to take up arms.” But it is impermissible to express this view in a resolution covertly, without definitely formulating it. It is this sneaking, covert disavowal of the December insurrection, unsupported by the slightest criticism of past experience, that is the main and vast defect in your resolution. And it is this defect that provides an enormous amount of material for agitation against a resolution which virtually inclines towards Comrade Akimov’s views, only hiding its rough edges.[5]

The first clause in your resolution suffers from the same defect. It starts with a platitude, for “stupid stubbornness” is typical of all reactionary governments; but this in itself does not prove that insurrection is necessary and inevitable.[6]   “Wrest power” is the same as “seize power”, and it is amusing to note that those who opposed the latter term accept ed the former. Thereby they revealed the hollowness of all their declamations against Narodnaya Volya-ism, etc. Comrade Plekhanov’s proposal to substitute the term “wrest their rights” for “wrest power” is particularly unfortunate because this is a purely Cadet formula. The main thing, I repeat, is that your resolution approaches the question of wresting power” and of armed uprising on the basis of unproved and unprovable platitudes, and not of a study and consideration of past experience and of the facts about the growth of the movement.



[1] Lenin is referring to an incident that occurred at the twenty-first session of the Congress. After the Mensheviks had rejected a Bolshevik amendment to the last clause of the Menshevik draft resolution on the Duma ten Bolshevik delegates, including Lenin, demanded that the amendment be put to a vote by roll-call. Then a Menshevik delegate from the Kharkov organisation accused the Bolsheviks of “collecting agitational material against the authority of the Congress decisions, thereby hampering its work”. In reply Lenin, speaking on behalf of the Bolsheviks, pointed out the narrow factionalism shown by the Mensheviks (see p. 308 of this volume).

[2] Vorobyov—the Caucasian Menshevik V. B. Lomtatidze.

[3] At the Congress, the Bolsheviks described the Menshevik draft resolution on “Armed Uprising” as a resolution “against armed uprising”. Lenin also stressed this in his “Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.” (see p. 368 of this volume).

[4] Winter—L. B. Krasin.

[5] Akimov, V. P. (Makhnovets)—extreme opportunist, one of the ideologists of Economism, who adhered to the Menshevik flight wing. At the twenty-second session of the Congress, he made a special report on armed uprising, in which he openly voiced his opposition to insurrection.

[6] The first clause of the Menshevik draft resolution on armed uprising, discussed by the Congress, read: “Whereas (1) the stupid obstinacy of the Russian Government confronts the people with the   necessity of wresting their rights from it... ." It was formulated by Plekhanov. On the drafting committee Plekhanov had insisted that “wresting their rights from It” he substituted for “wresting state power”, the phrase given in the original draft. Faced with objections, he had renounced his amendment. But just before the Congress met in session the Menshevik section of the committee submitted the first clause of the resolution as worded by Plekhanov. The amendment drew an emphatic protest from Lenin and the Bolshevik section of the Congress. Plekhanov was compelled to with draw it.

  Co-Report on the Question of the Attitude Towards the State Duma | Statement in Support of Muratov’s (Morozov’s) Amendment Concerning a Parliamentary Social-Democratic Group  

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